I’ll confess that I didn’t see this one coming. One of the many decisions the President made in pushing border security and combatting illegal immigration was to channel federal grant money away from sanctuary cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE, prioritizing such funds for jurisdictions that were trying to aid federal law enforcement. One of those funds was the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program. Los Angeles is one of the biggest sanctuary cities in the country and they were passed over for three million dollars in COPS funds, so they did what the #RESIST movement always does. They sued.
The city convinced a district court to see things their way order the White House to restore the grant money, but now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Trump administration was within their rights to prioritize the awarding of such grants as they see fit. Holy cow. When you’ve lost the Ninth Circuit… (The Hill)
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled in favor of the Trump administration’s efforts to prioritize federal dollars for local policing to towns and cities that complied with certain immigration policies.
The ruling, a split 2-1 decision, said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was within its rights to withhold Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants from sanctuary cities and states over their refusal to work with federal immigration enforcement authorities and instead prioritize agencies that focused on unauthorized immigration and agreed to give Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to jail records and immigrants in custody.
I found this surprising on a couple of counts. The first and most obvious shocker was that you could find anyone on the 9th Circuit to agree with the Trump administration about anything. But beyond that, the question of the COPS grants seemed like one of the areas where the sanctuary cities might have a better chance. Those grants aren’t really designated for anything to do with immigration enforcement. They’re awarded to cities to help them put more police out on the beat and improve community relations with law enforcement.
With that in mind, it seemed as if the plaintiffs did have a fairly decent case to claim that the “punishment didn’t fit the crime” in terms of withholding the grants. But obviously, the Court of Appeals didn’t agree, seeing money doled out by the Justice Department for purposes of law enforcement in a more generic fashion.
There was still one aspect of the lawsuit left unaddressed, at least as I see it. These are not funds that were originally allocated to go to any particular jurisdictions no matter what conditions may exist. These are grants. Any qualifying jurisdictions can apply for a grant, but nobody is assured of getting one. And it’s up to the DoJ to set the guidelines as to the criteria they consider when reviewing applications.
In this case, they awarded more points to jurisdictions that cooperate with immigration enforcement officials performing their duty. Los Angeles didn’t qualify for those points so their application slipped further back in the queue. As far as I can see, that should have been the end of the story right there.